High-press works, duo stand out; 3 things we learned as Celtic draw with Bristol City

By Euan Davidson

July 14, 2021

For Celtic, this was a normal pre-season match, against Bristol City. Another chance, if you like, for the Bhoys players to gain some match fitness, and test themselves against some decent opposition.

For Bristol City, though, it was the opening of the club’s new High Performance Centre [Bristol Live]. We even got a ribbon-cutting ceremony before the game, which was… something.

As for the game itself? Well, the first half was perfectly entertaining, if a little frustrating. The Bhoys moved the ball well, and consistently put pressure on the Robins out of possession. Postecoglou’s methods are working already, but an uptake in tempo was to be needed in the second 45.

And that second-half; it was ones for fans of steady passing and defending. If the first two friendlies were action-packed, this was more a gentle night’s work for the players who remained uninjured. Celtic nullified any threat Bristol City conjured.

The passing inter-play between the Bhoys was promising, at the very least, with excellent positional rotations in defence, domination of possession and an overall tidiness to Celtic’s play.

So, what did we learn as Celtic continued their pre-season schedule?

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Celtic upping their pressing game against Bristol City in pre-season

This wasn’t a classic, but friendlies aren’t necessarily meant to be. The best-case scenario is that players develop an understanding and cohesion ahead of the trials of the season.

So far, so good. In the first half, Postecoglou’s team were everywhere. Bristol City just couldn’t create clear-cut chances (barring, arguably, an effort that hit the post), with Urhoghide, Soro and Welsh in particular cutting off passing angles and space to run.

Given how vulnerable Celtic could be out of possession last season, that’s an improvement. Cutting out passing lanes is as important as making a tackle. In fact, solid defensive organisation nullifies the need for tackles; simply force the other team into ceding possession.

Generally speaking, Urhoghide had a solid outing, making his first (non-competitive) appearance for Celtic as a centre-back. Broadly, he looked more comfortable playing through the middle, happy to take the ball on and advance it.

Off the ball, this was a solid Celtic performance. As for on it…

Celtic lacking edge in final third, but at this stage, that’s to be expected

First off, this isn’t going to be a finger-pointing exercise. If you were expecting Celtic to immediately be an incredibly functional attacking outfit, you’ll probably be waiting a little while yet.

Sure, Ajeti has enjoyed a prolific pre-season, but against better opposition, Celtic found it hard to create opportunities. It doesn’t help, of course, when your two starting wingers are forced off with injury.

David Turnbull is still working his way around Postecoglou’s system, and is definitely lacking sharpness. Some of the directness we saw against Charlton and Sheffield Wednesday was absent, but that’s to be expected. These really are glorified training matches, albeit in fancy new digs, if you’re Bristol City.

All this said, the Bhoys need to tighten up the screws for Preston’s visit to Celtic Park on Saturday. With Odsonne Edouard missing through injury, Postecoglou has base his attack around Ajeti, and getting the ball into the 18-yard box has to be the focus ahead of meeting FC Midtjylland.

Taylor and McGregor haven’t missed a step

Fine, you’d expect two of our better players to breeze through a pre-season friendly. Even then, Greg Taylor and Callum McGregor were more than decent, starting the match against Bristol City.

McGregor has really stepped up from a leadership point of view. He’s dictating things in the middle of the park, yet continuing to get into pockets of space to create options off the ball.

Taylor has really improved the attacking side of the game. Some of his tackling was excellent, short and long, while his stamina hasn’t been effected by the break (and lack of minutes for Scotland). If anything, he looks fitter.

These are two players who will be hugely important for the Bhoys in 21-22, obviously. To have them getting off to a solid start in pre-season wasn’t a necessity, as such, but it’s a very good sign.

And also…

  • Our wingers; please stop getting injured
  • Bristol City’s new facilities look excellent; surely a club with Premier League aspirations
  • “Very few teams wear green” is an interesting take from Paul Cuddihy. It’s true, actually. How many top-flight clubs can you name with a green home kit? Let us know on the forum
  • Microphones are tricky, as we learned tonight

READ MORE: One more through the door